Financial and Tax Planning

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Have You Talked to Your Parents Lately?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

James L. Hintzke, CPA, MS Taxation, CSA, specializing in financial and tax planning for Elder Life aging issues and estate preservation, encourages adult children to talk to their aging parents about their future life planning needs.  Since this can be a sensitive subject, the most appropriate time suggested is during the holidays or at family gatherings when all family members are together and can assist each other in the discussion with their parents. Ideally, the best time to discuss these matters is BEFORE a crisis occurs, because then it may be too late for some of the plans the parents may have for themselves.

November is National Family Caregivers Month, with the week of Thanksgiving (November 18-24, 2012) dedicated as National Family Week, by presidential proclamation.

November is also National Alzheimer's Awareness Month.

Since the upcoming holiday season is common for family gatherings, here are some elder care planning issues to consider when caring for aging parents.

Keep the lines of communication open

As the adult child of aging parents, have you talked to your parents about retirement living options, lifestyle security, creating wills and trusts, legal and financial issues, and funeral wishes and arrangements? If the situation arises, do you know where to their important records?

If you’ve answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, you’re not alone. It’s tough to watch your parents age and lose the ability to manage their own affairs, much less step in and help them out especially when finances are concerned. The reversal of roles is so striking that even discussing it raises a spectrum of difficult emotional issues involving independence, pride and privacy.

Although sensitive, the best time to discuss these subjects is long before they are needed. “The biggest mistake families make is waiting too long,” Jim says, alluding to conversations that often begin once a parent is admitted to the hospital with a medical crisis or when a parent dies. “What follows is a mad scramble to find life insurance policies and bank account information. And what happens if your parent becomes incapacitated? Court action is sometimes required to take over the financial affairs of the parent.”

What are some of the Warning Signs?

Before an emergency strikes, there are subtle signs adult children can look for even if their parents seem mentally sharp. Concerns about money, unopened bills, numerous checks written to the same charity, a messy house, and old or no food in the refrigerator could also be early symptoms of memory loss or dementia.

How to bring up the subject?

Fortunately, planning ahead for unforeseen circumstances can be implemented with the simple act of communication. Jim recommends adult children begin by discussing the parents retirement plans. While an indirect, subtle approach is advised, each parent/child relationship is different and therefore more a direct, candid approach could be used. Usually the adult child in the family with the strongest emotional ties to the parents acts as the “quarterback” on long-term planning and care issues. Then if an emergency does occur, the adult child is prepared and able to ensure that his parent’s needs are being met and reduces some of the stress that can accompany crisis situations.

The most important issue to hash out is making sure someone in the family has access to financial information, including health and life insurance policy numbers and contact information, bank accounts and credit card information, details about financial planners, attorney’s, CPA’s and the location of their will. Find out, adds Jim, what your parent’s preferences are should they no longer be able to care for themselves.

When is the “Right Time”?

There are many options available for when aging parents are ready to shift financial control to their child: joint bank account, establishing a Power of Attorney, Revocable Living Trust and Limited Partnership or Limited Liability Company. Jim is knowledgeable on these options and will help you determine which is best suited toward your needs.

The single most important issue amongst seniors is protecting their independence, so it’s important to let your aging parents know that taking control of their finances is in their best interest and will help protect their dignity, safety and quality of life. This planning may take some time, and many adult children with aging parents are facing this same situation. Their careers and raising their own families make it difficult to see if their parent’s needs are continually being met. However, you should take the time to discuss your parent’s long-term planning needs so that you will have greater peace of mind knowing that at least, their financial and housing needs will be met as they age. Then, sit down with them once a year thereafter to review their monthly income and expenses (and adjust them if necessary) to ensure they are still financially fit.

Integrity, expertise, trust

As a Certified Senior Advisor, Jim is sensitive to senior Elder Life planning issues. Jim is known in the community for — his integrity, expertise, accountability and confidentiality, as well as his special understanding of how financial decisions affect one’s lifestyle choices. He has been in practice for over 25 years within the New Berlin Community and surrounding areas.

He is also a knowledgeable speaker to the senior community and actively visits retirement communities to extend his training and support to residents. Additionally, Jim is trained in financial elder abuse situations. He is dedicated to helping seniors — and their adult children make the best decisions during their retirement years.

Local Departments of Aging:

  • WI: http://dhfs.wisconsin.gov/aging/elderabuse/index.htm
  • Waukesha County: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., (262) 548-7848
  • Milwaukee County: 24 hours, (414) 289-6874
  • ElderCare locator: (800) 677-1116 or www.eldercare.gov